Getting to Yes

When tasked with obtaining some official training in the art of negotiation, after a lack of budget discovered, I chose to read a book recommended to me. This is not the book which was recommended; “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss. However, that book was being shipped to my door when I realized I had a copy of “Getting to Yes” sitting on my shelf. I either acquired this book from my tenure in an incubator for entrepreneurs or from a colleague at Nike, but nonetheless I turned to it before eventually reading the summary of “Never Split the Difference” and taking Chris Voss’s Masterclass online.

I have to start by saying that Chris Voss is clearly an artist baptized in the stress and fire of hostage negotiation for the FBI. While he references terms and concepts found in “Getting to Yes”, a summary of the knowledge produced by Harvard’s Negotiation Project, Chris Voss has developed a much more practical set of tools for students looking to apply themselves in everyday negotiation.

I consumed both “Getting to Yes” and Chris Voss’s methods in a short time period and sincerely felt like each set of knowledge supported the other.

“Getting to Yes” seemed to me, really, as a counter for position based negotiations where parties negotiate from starting positions and one or the other gives ground or changes their position throughout the negotiation. Since this method doesn’t lend well to sustaining relationships for continued collaboration “Getting to Yes” proposes negotiating on the merits of any potential agreement, keeping the concept or idea of a successful agreement at the forefront of conversation.

The first half of the book really outlines what merit based negotiating looks like, while considering how to identify and solve any potential relationship issues first. The second half of the book is a tool one can use to help counter all the potential pitfalls and challenges one may experience negotiating with others who aren’t exactly aligned with this style of negotiating.

I received a lot of value out of the second half of the book as there were numerous examples of helping others align with a new framework and skillful ways of negotiating with individuals who may be stubborn in doing things their way. The first half of the book, as the authors admit, sounded a lot like everything I’d been doing. Except, the concept of BATNA or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement was something I’ve chosen to remember. Knowing what your alternative is to not successfully negotiating an agreement can help you understand your bounds, how far you’re willing to go, and potential leverage over another party. Chris Voss also references BATNA in his masterclass, but calls it by another name.

Ultimately I’d have to say I probably got more tactical value out of Chris Voss’s methods as he provides tangible tools such as mirroring, labeling, and asking targeted questions as great tools for progressing conversations while revealing information that can be used again later to discover the best possible agreement among multiple parties.

However, it’s clear that “Getting to Yes” is an amazing introduction to a framework with basic concepts that anyone can use and I’m grateful to have words to explain some of the tricks I’ve picked up in my own experience. Additionally, it helps make clear the value of other frameworks and techniques like something extremely tactical like Chris Voss’s methods.

I enjoyed the book as it’s an entertaining walk through a variety of human negotiations and all the drama and comedy that comes with it.

Highly recommended.